Posts Tagged ‘Jet Li’

The Emperor’s Saviour

Mulan

Director: Niki Caro

Cast: Yifeu Liu, Gong Li, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Tzi Ma, Ron Yuan

Film Rating 7 out of 10 – Catch Mulan in Cinemas now or on DisneyPlus

Disney’s bid to attract the massive Chinese cinema going audience with Mulan which was scheduled for a worldwide release on the 27th March 2020 was an ill-timed affair as the leap year that is 2020 brought along a vicious virus from the Far East and ravaged the world, closing down cinemas and forcing cities into lock down.

The effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on world cinema in 2020 has been devastating and only films like Christopher Nolan’s exceptionally brilliant Tenet will attract reluctant audiences back into the cinemas. Many big budget film productions have postponed their release dates until 2021.

Nevertheless, the New Zealand director of Whale Rider Niki Caro did a fairly good job of taking on Mulan, an adventure tale set in ancient China with a completely Chinese cast. Built on the premise that a young and feisty girl from a Chinese village Mulan disobeys her father Zhou played by Tzi Ma (Skyscraper, Arrival, Million Dollar Arm), disguises herself as a man and joins the Imperial army to fight Northern invaders led by Bori Khan played by Hawaiian actor Jason Scott Lee (Alaska is a Drag) and aided Xianniang, a witch played by Gong Li (Coming Home, Curse of the Golden Flower, Memoirs of a Geisha).

Mulan is played by rising Chinese actress Yifei Liu (The Forbidden Kingdom) who rises above her male counterparts in the Imperial army and comes to the rescue of the Emperor played by Martian arts legend Jet Li (The Forbidden Kingdom, Hero, Kiss of the Dragon).

Although the script of Mulan leaves much to be desired and the dialogue seems stilted and uninspiring, the action sequences are great and at least the cast is authentic although it would seem better if this film’s dialogue was in Chinese with English subtitles, but director Niki Caro was obviously appealing to Western audiences while paying homage to her Disney employees.

Unlike Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther which successfully captured the zeitgeist of 2018. Black Panther was released by the Disney owned Marvel Films and was part of the Marvel franchise of superhero films with sufficient legacy to back up the main character.

Mulan on the other hand was a Disney produced film which while brilliantly shot and cinematically constructed, the storyline was predictable and didn’t offer enough depth for this multi-talented cast of Chinese actors who have all appeared in far superior Chinese films including Coming Home, Hero and Curse of the Golden Flower.

Despite some flaws, Mulan is an enjoyable action film set in ancient China, a land filled with loyalty, honour and unbridled patriarchy. Some interesting aspects of ancient Chinese culture are examined but not in the elegant fashion done by far superior directors such as Zhang Yimou in Raise the Red Lantern in his breakthrough film in 1992 which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

Mulan is enjoyable but unfortunately might be overlooked amidst the current existential health crisis engulfing the world. Mulan gets a rating of 7 out of 10 and is spectacular watch but the storyline is not original.

Old Dogs of War

The Expendables 3

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Director: Patrick Hughes

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Kellan Lutz, Kelsey Grammer, Dolph Lundgren, Victor Ortiz, Terry Crews, Glen Powell, Ronda Rousey, Randy Coutoure, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Coutoure

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Sylvester Stallone reunites with all his 80’s action hero stars for a reminiscent action adventure film culminating in Zorro, the guy from Lethal Weapon along with Arnie, Indiana Jones and of course Rambo all fighting it out on the big screen.

The Expendables 3 is a fun action romp with lots of old and new cast members following on the success of the two previous films which basically gave a very flimsy premise for all these aged action stars to have an onscreen reunion amidst blowing everything in sight. The fact that all 3 Expendables movies is always released on South African screen during woman’s month is ironic to say the least. One has to satisfy the male population some how.

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Stallone plays Barney with Jason Statham as Lee Christmas who along with the rest of the Expendables cast add some new younger and savvy crew led by the cocky Smilee played by a buffed up Kellan Lutz who has come along way from the Twilight Days. Together both crews set out to destroy the evil and manic arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks, wonderfully played by Mel Gibson, a former Expendables co founder and now nefarious and ruthless criminal with a penchant for expensive art.

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As the action moves swiftly from all the usual international honeymoon spots like Mogadishu, Somalia to Armenia, (actually Bulgaria) in the film, The Expendables 3 does not pretend to be anything more than popcorn fodder with loads of action some witty one liners and a flimsy plot thrown in. Its also a fantastic chance for Wesley Snipes (The Blade Trilogy) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator) to redeem their forsaken Hollywood careers along with Antonio Banderas (The Legend of Zorro) and more importantly Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon).

The real question is what was Harrison Ford doing in a film like this? Surely he made enough money as Indiana Jones or is this a revival pending the next Star Wars Trilogy where Ford is rumored to reprise his role as Han Solo (40 years on!)

The Expendables 3 is great entertainment if viewers enjoy a bunch of old dogs of cinema blowing things up and getting the bad guys. There are some amazing stunts, the narrative is flimsy punctuated by some hilarious moments provided by Banderas, Snipes and of course Oscar Winner Mel Gibson.

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It is also evident that clearly the 2008 economic recession is still affecting Hollywood if all these actors from the eighties and nineties still need to take part in sequels. The main thing is, at least they haven’t retired and are still entertaining audiences 30 years later as the cinema was packed when watching this action flick. Recommended viewing for serious action stars and clearly not aimed at female audiences despite the presence of female wrestler Rhonda Rousey who adds some glamour to this aged group of bandits.

Watch out for Kelsey Grammer (last seen in Transformers: Age of Extinction) as Bonaparte, a sort of mercenary recruiter who is always good value.

Film Directors & Festivals
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